Friday, December 21, 2012

Thoughts on the re-energized gun control debate

(Cross-posted as a comment on an Advocatus Atheist post)

My personal reason for being pro-gun is simply that I believe that self-defense is a basic human right, and as such people should have access to effective defensive tools. The definition of 'effective' is of course up for debate and I do not wish to get entangled in that debate today.

That said, I agree with [Tristan Vick of Advocatus Atheist] regarding the mental health issue. We need a better health care system that is accessible, affordable and includes mental health assessment and screening. Perhaps even including free annual psychiatric evaluations for everyone.

We also need to address the issue of the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment. A lot of people with coverage for mental health treatment fail to seek treatment either because they are ashamed of doing so or fail to recognize that they need help. A mental health evaluation should be part of a routine annual physical (I realize that a 'mental' check-up goes beyond the definition of 'physical', but let's not argue semantics :-) ).

Then there is the issue of culture. Our entertainment media trivializes violence, and sometimes even makes it look 'cool'. I am against any sort of censorship, but at some point authors and content creators need to realize the impact of their creative output on the minds of people with pre-existing mental health issues. A mentally healthy person will not 'snap' as the result of playing a violent video game, but a disturbed person might be influenced to a point where they fail to be able to discern acceptable social behavior from fictitious violent behavior.

Crazy people will do crazy things with or without guns. Take for instance the nutbag in China who stabbed 22 children on their way to school, and other horrible incidents of a similar nature.

So yes, I agree with [Tristan Vick's] idea that people need to be trained to recognize signs of mental health issues in their peers, and we need to do that through better education, a better health care system, and a more responsible entertainment industry.